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Arming teachers? Elko district looks at policies and procedures

ELKO – Police may have a lead on who called in a threat that closed Elko High School last week.

Superintendent Jeff Zander told Elko County School District trustees Tuesday that law enforcement identified the person responsible for making the threat directed toward Elko High School, but could not make an arrest.

“I think they identified who they think made that call. I don’t think they can actually prove anything at this point in time,” Zander said.

The anonymous threat was received at about 11 p.m. Feb. 27 and was reported to local law enforcement.

Because there was not enough time to verify the validity of the threat through the police, the district decided to close Elko High School the next day, Zander said, pointing out that the threat was directed specifically toward Elko High School.

Other Elko schools were not closed, but security and police protection was increased at schools district-wide starting Feb. 21 and is still in place.

“We will continue to have law enforcement presence at all of our schools,” Zander said.

Since the incident, Zander said he has received “a number of calls” from people within the community asking about arming teachers with guns on campus, prompting him to discuss the option with the district’s liability insurance carrier.

“There are specific liability issues of having people that aren’t trained law enforcement or aren’t certified bring firearms into public schools,” Zander said.

Explaining that although “anybody can be trained to shoot,” law enforcement officers are trained specifically when to draw their firearm during a crisis and pull the trigger, Zander said.

“We have people who haven’t received that training who may brandish a firearm and shoot somebody. And if they happen not to hit who they were shooting at or whatever that might be, what kind of liability would that bring to the Elko County School District?”

The district also could not guarantee the protection of an armed teacher if law enforcement arrived on the scene of an incident, Zander added.

Zander also reviewed protocols that are already in place, including an “extensive’ emergency operation plan that is updated annually and shared with law enforcement, and active assailant trainings given by the Elko County Sheriff’s office.

Parents may also be invited to the training “so they have an understanding that we do have protocols in place,” Zander said.

Zander said he received other calls from people offering to pay for metal detectors or doorjambs. He is also considering forming a committee consisting of parents and community members to let them know how the protocols work in a crisis situation.

School board trustee Teresa Dastrup suggested creating a pamphlet that could provide information for parents of what to do in case there is an incident at their child’s school.

“Something so parents can be assured we do have things and place,” Dastrup said.

Zander said the district is equally interested in providing other resources including Student Resource Officers, social workers, Communities in Schools, and Family Resource Center, which may prevent an incident from occurring.

“I think that the majority of the issues we’re dealing with don’t have to do so much with firearms, but more of a mental health issue,” Zander said.

“I’m hoping that these programs help us identify these types of issues and address them quickly. We can provide additional mental health counseling for our kids that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to,” Zander said.

Overall, Zander said the district is “lucky to have the protocols in place,” all of which is aimed at creating a “safe learning environment for years and years to come.”

“Hopefully, we’ll look back at some of the changes we’ve made and see the benefit.”

“There are specific liability issues of having people that aren’t trained law enforcement or aren’t certified bring firearms into public schools.” — Superintendent Jeff Zander

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Elko City Council suspends Mona's brothel license for 180 days

ELKO — Elko City Council has suspended the brothel license for Mona’s Ranch for 180 days after a hearing called in the wake of the arrest of a bartender on drug charges that included methamphetamine allegedly found in his room at the brothel.

The council motion Tuesday night states that Mona’s Ranch should come back to the council at the end of the 180 days with a business plan and then the city could drop the suspension or decide to revoke the license. The plan would show how the brothel would prevent drugs on the premises.

“We’re on better ground to go for suspension,” Mayor Chris Johnson said after the council defeated a motion from Councilman John Patrick Rice to revoke Mona’s license.

“I think we need to revoke this license. They still have another brothel to depend on,” Rice said, referring to Inez’s D&D in Elko. Looking back at the council’s vote two weeks ago to prohibit the sale of medical and recreational marijuana in the city, Rice said the council would be hypocritical not to revoke the license.

The council also defeated Councilman Robert Schmidtlein’s motion for a 90-day suspension before settling on the 180-day suspension.

“I’m thinking six months,” said council member Mandy Simons.

Mona’s Ranch representatives had hoped the brothel would be put on probation so the business could continue in operation, under scrutiny.

Mona’s Ranch’s attorney, Tony Liker of Elko, contended the owners and management weren’t aware of drugs on the premises, and the brothel shouldn’t be shut down.

“We’re willing to make a deal here …. They are not trying to hide anything,” he said.

The general manager of Mona’s Ranch, Louis Goldberg, said “a bunch of things have been implemented already” to prevent drugs on site. “We run the tightest ship. We never had an incident, and Pete ruined everything.” He was referring to Peter Alberro, who was arrested on the drug charges.

Goldberg said all the workers have undergone drug testing, and there would be more stringent drug testing in the future, including with new hires. Mona’s Ranch also planned to do its own background checks on top of those done by the Elko Police Department, do bag checks, scan identifications, and would welcome a police drug dog’s visits.

Goldberg also said under new policies there will be no more locked rooms. The bartender and maintenance man, Alberro, had a locked room upstairs at the brothel, and that is where police found meth and drug paraphernalia.

Rice was critical of the bar owners, Soon Yee Scott and her daughter Lisa Watson of Las Vegas, after Watson admitted at the meeting she hadn’t been to Elko in roughly three years. The co-owners acquired the brothel license for Mona’s Ranch on Nov. 26, 2014.

“When we hired Louis, we knew he was doing a great job,” said Watson, who was at the meeting. Goldberg also manages Inez’s. “Louis had no idea there was a problem at Mona’s. He had no knowledge anything illegal was going on. I beg you to give him another chance.”

Rice told Watson it was her responsibility to communicate with Louis, and he chastised her for living in Las Vegas “and taking all the profits,” while not spending time in the community.

Much of the testimony from the brothel’s side was centered on showing that Alberro was not a manager, which might lessen the brothel’s liability.

Police Chief Ben Reed testified that under city code bartenders are also considered managers, and he said among the 278 text messages entered into evidence, many show Alberro and Goldberg discussed what might be considered management issues.

Alberro, who is out on bail following his arrest during a traffic stop, testified at the hearing he had been addicted to meth for three years, but he didn’t sell drugs at Mona’s Ranch. He also said he wasn’t a manager.

“I just did things that needed to be done,” he said.

Liker showed photos of the remodeling work Alberro had done at the brothel and told the council Alberro was a good worker who didn’t show the usual signs of a drug user.

The council met for more than seven and a half hours Tuesday, with most of that time spent on the public hearing on Mona’s Ranch. Sworn testimony came from Reed, police Capt. Ty Trouten. Mona’s Ranch’s manager Anna Brown, as well as Alberro. Brown played a recording of a conversation with Trouten to show she didn’t say Alberro was a manager but was referring to a manager at Inez’s.

Assistant City Attorney Tom Coyle and Liker did the questioning for the hearing.

Reed said that along with finding drugs in Alberro’s vehicle on Feb. 3, police searched Alberro’s house and his room at the brothel and found drugs at those locations, as well as scales and meth pipes. The amounts were high enough for possession with intent to sell, but he said he didn’t have hard evidence of sales at the brothel.

Trouten showed photographs of Alberro’s room at Mona’s Ranch, and he said he was “duly impressed with the surveillance there” at Mona’s and wondered why with so much oversight nobody knew what was going on there. No one had a key to Alberro’s room at the brothel, so police had to break the lock.

Rice said the lack of a key showed the “licensee and agents didn’t have control of the house.”

Simons said the locked room could have been a red flag.

Councilman Reece Keener said he thought “we’re delving into minutiae. We know drugs were found on the premises.”

The council tried to shorten the hearing then, but City Attorney David Stanton said that if the council is going to act or deal on the license, it needs to let the licensee put on a case.

“We have not had this situation before. We are treating you fairly,” Johnson said to Liker at one point in the hearing.

Rice stressed that a brothel license is a privilege and Elko is one of a limited number of communities where a brothel is legal.

“We all agree provisions of this privileged license were violated,” he said.

The council approved formal findings before suspending the brothel license, and Coyle said the action is for the brothel license, not Mona’s liquor license.

Assistant Elko City Manager Scott Wilkinson said Wednesday the city attorneys, police chief and city clerk, Shanell Owens, would have to work out the “dynamics of the existing business license. I’m not sure they can just have a bar and dancing.”

NDOT: Signs not allowed on roundabout, highways

CARSON CITY – The Nevada Department of Transportation is reminding community members that advertising signage is not allowed on state highway property.

Federal regulations and Nevada state law prohibit certain advertising signage on public highway property, including but not limited to yard sale signs, event signs and real estate or business signage. State road property often extends beyond the roadside, fence line or sidewalk of interstates, freeways, highways and urban state roads or streets.

“This is about safety,” NDOT District Engineer Boyd Ratliff explained. “Signs that distract or block the view of drivers or interfere with maintenance of our roadsides are not safe.”

The Lamoille Highway roundabout has become a frequent location for signage, creating potential traffic safety concerns. Additionally, it is unsafe for pedestrians to cross roadway lanes without a designated pedestrian crossing to install signs.

Nevada Department of Transportation staff remove unlawful signs on highway roadsides, often temporarily storing them at the nearest NDOT maintenance station for pick up by the sign owner. Per Nevada Revised Statute 405.110, sign owners can also be fined up to $250.

Further information is available by dialing 775-888-7000 or visiting “public involvement/sign rules and regulations” at

NDOT also reminds that political signs are not allowed on state right of way.

Political signs less than 4 by 8 feet can be posted on private property next to state roads no more than 60 days before an election. Signs over that size require an NDOT permit.

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Winter storm could drop more than 2 feet of snow in mountains

ELKO – A winter storm warning for much of northeastern Nevada begins at 10 p.m. Thursday and continues through noon Saturday.

Heavy snow as well as blowing and drifting snow are expected.

The forecast calls for snow accumulations of 4 to 8 inches in the valleys, with localized amounts up to 12 inches. In the mountains, 1 to 2 feet with localized amounts greater than 2 feet are expected.

“Winds gusting as high as 45 mph will cause patchy blowing and drifting snow," stated the warning. "Be prepared for significant reductions in visibility at times and dangerous travel.

Travelers should check the latest road conditions at 511 or

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Rice not running for re-election to city council

ELKO – Elko City Councilman John Patrick Rice has announced he will not run for re-election this year.

“After careful consideration I have decided I will not seek a fourth term on the Elko City Council. I am now turning my attention to other projects of interest to me,” Rice said in a note to the Elko Daily Free Press. “I am proud of what the council has been able to accomplish in my time in office. It has been a privilege to serve our community. I deeply appreciate the confidence the citizens of Elko have had in me over the years.”

Rice said he informed the mayor and council members Tuesday morning of his intentions.

“I am happy to have been able to serve with all of them,” he said.

Rice was first elected in 2007 and was eligible to run for another term because of a change in the city’s election cycle that now matches county, state and federal calendars. Prior to that he was chairman of the city’s planning commission. He has held faculty and administration positions at Great Basin College and the college’s foundation.

Rice was last elected to the council in 2014 along with incumbent Reece Keener.

Keener has announced his intention to run for mayor, so there will be two open seats on the city council this election cycle.

Rice was an early supporter of relocating the Elko Police Station to a new facility, as well as the designation of a homeless camping site on Hot Springs Road. He fought for temporary restrictions on marijuana sales, and scolded council members who voted for a zoning ban instead of a moratorium. The council voted in February to prohibit marijuana sales establishments despite statewide approval to legalize its use for recreational purposes.

Filing opens Monday for non-judicial candidates, and runs through March 16.

May 22 is the final day voters can register for the primary election, which is June 12.